OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
A growing number of Democratic senators and liberal media outlets are breaking with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) after he changed the chamber’s dress code to accommodate hoodie-and-shorts-wearing Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.).
One of them is Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), who, according to The Hill, “is circulating a proposal to reestablish the Senate’s dress code,” citing two “senators familiar with the proposal.”
A person familiar with Manchin’s resolution said that it would require a return to the previous Senate dress code, “which required senators to wear coats and ties or business attire when on the Senate floor,” The Hill added.
“I’ve signed it,” one senator, who explained it would “define what the dress code is,” told The Hill.
On Monday, Schumer suddenly announced that “senators are able to choose what they wear on the Senate floor. I will continue to wear a suit,” the Associated Press noted.
Certainly, the most notable beneficiary of Schumer’s relaxed dress code is Fetterman, who has consistently worn sweatshirts and shorts within the United States Capitol, even on the day of his return in April after a two-month absence for clinical depression treatment.
During his campaign, Fetterman presented himself as a “blue-collar tough guy,” frequently choosing Carhartt sweatshirts over a conventional suit and tie. It’s worth noting that this “blue-collar” image may not align with his educational background at Harvard University or that reports said that his parents provided financial support during his tenure as mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, Democratic Whip Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) has also broken with Schumer over the issue.
“I’m concerned about it. The senator in question from Pennsylvania is a personal friend, but I think we need to have standards,” Durbin told “The Briefing with Steve Scully” on SiriusXM in an interview that will air on Friday.
“I will continue to wear a suit,” he said, adding: “I can’t understand exactly what he was thinking at that point.”
He noted further: “I want to give him the benefit of the doubt until I speak to him, but I think the Senate needs to act on this.”
The Washington Post Editorial Board also railed against the loosened standards:
The get-up veers so far into the grunge zone, in fact, that the Pennsylvania Democrat probably couldn’t wear it to work as a teacher in many schools or as an employee in a lot of fast-food chains. And yet Mr. Fetterman might soon be seen draped in Carhartt on the Senate floor. Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) has relaxed the upper house’s long-standing, if unwritten, dress code requiring senators to wear business attire. Henceforth, he said in a statement, “Senators are able to choose what they wear on the Senate floor.”
We vote nay. Dressing formally conveys respect for the sanctity of the institution and for the real-world impact of the policies it advances. Putting on a suit creates an occasion for lawmakers to reflect, just for a moment, on the special responsibilities with which the people have entrusted them and on a deliberative process that at least aspires to solemnity. Judges are perfectly “able to choose” what they wear while on the bench, but court wouldn’t be court unless they put on black robes.
The editorial board went on to speculate that other senators will now utilize the new dress code in ways that could stretch the boundaries of decorum even further.
“It is all too imaginable that attention-seeking lawmakers will don T-shirts emblazoned with the names and mascots of their hometown sports franchises — or inflammatory partisan messages — hoping to go viral on social media and garner small-dollar donations,” the editorial board wrote.